We usually hear about electric mobility brands and their efforts in developing relevant sectors. So what sets this US-based brand apart?
We live in a world where the excesses of the past are slowly catching up with us, evident by the stringent emissions laws, which in the past phased out two-stroke scooters and bikes, and most recently, had car manufacturers across the board culling their small-capacity diesel engines. Many manufacturers rose to the challenge, moving towards hybrid and electric mobility. The flip side, however, was the mushrooming of brands which, in essence, took Chinese products and technologies and rebadged them for the Indian market. A few more brands, like Ather Energy, took the ‘ground-up’ approach, while others like Tork Motors moved onto setting up charging stations.
In the midst of this, Power.Global, a US-based entity threw its hat into the ring, vowing to set up a facility to develop, manufacture, and retrofit electric motors for use in both personal as well as commercial vehicles. evo India was among the attendees to the brand’s first interaction with members of the Indian automotive media. Here’s what we learnt:
The men behind the brand
Power.Global (USA) CEO and founder Porter Harris has over two decades of experience in brands such as AeroVironment (a creator of unmanned aerial vehicles for military purposes), Faraday Future and SpaceX, and has more than 16 patents granted or pending against his name. In fact, before founding Power.Global, Harris co-founded Romeo Power Technology, which creates high-energy density electric batteries for use in commercial EVs.
Moving now to the India operations, Powerglobal Energy Services pvt ltd’s CEO Pankaj Dubey is a veteran of the Indian automotive industry, with close to 25 years of experience in the field and stints at Hero Motors, Yamaha, and Eicher. Most recently, he was the MD at Eicher’s sub-brand Polaris before being recruited to head Power.Global's Indian concerns.
What’s on Power.Global’s mind
As we all know, the bulk of commercial transportation in India depends upon CNG/petrol or diesel vehicles which are not only expensive to run (due to the rising costs of fossil fuel) as well as maintain, but are also inefficient and polluting, with long-term effects on the environment. Hence, with a mission statement of providing services for clean, reliable, affordable and modern energy, the brand has engineered its solutions in the form of a retrofit kit employing active-cooled lithium-ion batteries.
The kit claims 120km of range on full electric power from a small battery module, and can be configured to convert up to 90 per cent of existing auto-rickshaws to fully electric, accepting between two and four battery modules. The battery themselves have a claimed 30 per cent more energy by weight and volume than the competitors. Further, they feature tech that protects them from short circuits and overcharging, are designed to withstand high variances in temperature as well as physical abuse, and boast of a claimed cycle life of up to 1500 cycles.
Going into a component-wise breakdown of the benefits; starting with the battery, it provides 40 per cent more efficiency than an internal combustion engine, which translates to 40 per cent more range. Further, this energy is transferred to the motor, again with a 10 per cent gain in efficiency, and consequently range. Lastly, the motor controller, since it deals with fewer mechanical parts, gives six per cent more efficiency. All of this combines to about a 56 per cent cumulative improvement in efficiency, which can be obtained at a one-time investment equivalent to 40 per cent of the cost of a new vehicle, and then a daily long-term benefit of 20-30 per cent for the driver, and crucially, the conversion can be done with very little remodelling to the vehicle’s chassis.
Power.Global also plans to develop an app with which users can track the battery's performance and usage status, as well as stay informed of the nearest kiosk where the batteries can be swapped. Speaking about the kiosks, they will serve a dual purpose of fast-charging the vehicles as well as swapping depleted batteries.
So what is the estimated impact?
In a word: immense! As per Power.Global’s estimates, there are currently over five crore petrol/CNG-powered three-wheelers only on Indian roads. Each of these vehicles, in turn, contribute about 3.72 tonnes of CO2, 16kg of nitrous oxides and 5kg of PM10 (respirable particulates less than 10 micrometres in diameter), along with a significant amount of noise pollution.
Further, Power.Global says it will work with supply chain vendors to minimise environmental impact for every individual component, including plastics, metals and battery cells, with a ‘cradle to grave’ approach towards reuse and recyclability. Meanwhile, components that cannot be reused per se, like battery modules, will be upcycled for stationary storage or to support micro-grid applications, like supplying electricity for telecom towers in villages.
The journey so far, and what to look out for
Despite the Covid-19 related slowdowns, Power.Global has chalked out a plan, with the ultimate objective of complete localisation. Ticking off the first box in the process is the incorporation of the Indian entity, which was slated for Q3 of 2020, and stands complete as of now. Next comes the setting up the brand with a focus on engineering, and building a local supply chain, which is currently underway.
The first quarter of 2021 will then go into support trials and product development, which will be expanded towards setting up the manufacturing processes in India. This is expected to be taken care of by the third quarter, so that the production of the retrofit kits as well as the battery modules can start by the fourth quarter, as can the installation of the Power.Global battery swap network. Additionally, the brand estimates that all new products from this point on will be developed within India, fulfilling the brand’s objective of ‘100% design and Make In India.’ Ultimately, the brand aim of being listed on the National Stock Exchange would be set for 2023 or even ’24.
So there you have it; a brand built by individuals with both understanding as well as experience in the automotive fields, setting towards a difficult, albeit achievable target, with a realistic timeframe. In conclusion, Power.Global, with the nous of being a public benefit corporation, and the promise of setting aside one percent from its sales towards environment conservation and sustainability, may be exactly what the Indian automotive atmosphere needs.